How does Judaism regard emotional abuse in a marriage? (More focused form of this question.)
closed as not a real question by Seth J, Gershon Gold, Isaac Moses Jun 21 '12 at 15:16
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Let's start by saying that - duh, it's prohibited. Anyone is prohibited from ona'at devarim, wronging others verbally. Additionally the Talmud says "love your neighbor like yourself" is a guiding principle prohibiting going into a marriage likely to be one filled with contempt, so it should be a no-brainer that abusive behavior is out.
The Talmud, in the seventh chapter of Ketubot, lists a series of behaviors that would be grounds for divorce with a financial settlement favoring the wife. It's clearly describing some forms of psychologically abusive behavior.
So emotional abuse certainly can be grounds for a divorce, and will affect the monetary settlement.
Traditionally, Jewish law with regards to torts is limited to actions, not words. (Though testifying in court is considered an action.) I would be obligated to pay for embarrassment for slapping someone in the face, pulling down his pants in public, or spitting on him; but the courts per se wouldn't do anything if I just called him a name (albeit a terrible one that horribly hurt him). Nonetheless, per Rabbi Warburg's article in Tradition (Spring 2012), occasionally Jewish courts have ruled that extrajudicial measures may be necessary as a matter of public policy, and have awarded damages for verbal abuse as well.